Suicide bomber kills up to 112 in Sana, Yemen
The attacker targets soldiers rehearsing for a parade in Yemen's capital.
Ansar al Sharia, an Al Qaeda affiliate, claims responsibility. At least 300
By Zaid al-Alayaa and Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times
May 22, 2012, 12:11 a.m.
> Yemen -
A suicide bomber targeted soldiers rehearsing Monday for a military parade
here, killing as many as 112 people and signaling that Islamic extremists
may be shifting their focus to Yemen's capital after weeks of intense
battles in outlying provinces with U.S.-backed government forces.
00003751.topic> Al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al Sharia claimed responsibility
for the bombing in retaliation for American-assisted government offensives
against its strongholds in southern Yemen. Unnerved by increasedU.S.
military and drone strikes, the militants struck directly at the heart of
the new and fragile government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
The attack, in which at least 300 people were injured, was the bloodiest in
the capital in years and came a day after gunmen fired on a car carrying
three U.S. civilian contractors training the Yemeni coast guard in the Red
Sea port of Hudaydah.
f-defense-ORGOV000094164.topic> The Pentagon said the trio suffered minor
Washington has stepped up military involvement in this battered Arab nation,
dispatching at least 20 special operations soldiers to provide satellite
imagery and intelligence for strikes against extremists. But lawless
mountains and deserts controlled by tribes have become a rugged redoubt for
hundreds of Islamist fighters at the crossroads of the Middle East and the
Horn of Africa.
The attack on Sana revealed how easily militants can maneuver and exploit
the nation's turmoil. Officials said an assailant dressed in an army uniform
detonated a concealed bomb while troops drilled for a national holiday
parade scheduled for Tuesday. Bodies and rifles were scattered across Sabin
Square and four city hospitals were overwhelmed with the dead and wounded.
Yemeni Defense Minister Nasser Ahmed - who may have been targeted for
assassination - was in the square near the presidential palace to inspect
the troops but was not hurt. Gunfire erupted after the blast and authorities
said two people wearing explosives-laden belts were arrested.
"Blood and body parts covered the square. It was hideous," said one soldier
who asked not to be named. "The image will stay with me all my life."
A statement posted on an Al Qaeda website said Yemeni officials had been
"turned into mercenaries" carrying out U.S. and Western policies. It added:
"We will get revenge.... What happened in Sana is only the beginning."
Hadi responded to the attack by firing two top commanders, including the
nephew of former President
008114.topic> Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was deputy director of national
security. In an address to a stunned nation Monday night, Hadi said the "war
against terror will continue until terror is uprooted and terminated,
regardless of the sacrifices.... We are determined to clear Yemen of
extremists and free ourselves to face our economic and development
The bombing came days after Yemeni forces launched major operations against
militants linked to Ansar al Sharia and the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula. Authorities said 19 soldiers and 33 militants were killed in
weekend clashes in the south. Earlier this month, a U.S. drone strike killed
Fahd Mohammed Ahmed Quso, an Al Qaeda operative believed to have plotted the
bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.
The militants had promised on their website to retaliate, calling their
strategy a "flowing river" that will sweep across the impoverished country.
Much of the Al Qaeda affiliate's focus has been in the south, including
Abyan province, where police stations have been overrun, officials
assassinated and towns seized. The tactics have frustrated Yemen's
underpaid, ill-equipped army, which has been manipulated by political
Islamic militants have rattled the government since Hadi's inauguration day
in February, when a suicide bomber killed at least 25 people, mostly
soldiers, at a presidential palace. Washington fears increased efforts by
Yemeni extremists to attack U.S. targets similar to the failed plots in 2009
and this month to blow up airliners over Western skies.
The nation is also rife with intrigue. Saleh ruled for 33 years and his
authoritarian approach has been blamed for much of the country's
instability. His negotiated departure this year after months of uprisings
left his political machine in place. Hadi is attempting to keep Saleh at bay
while dealing with poverty, power shortages and international pressure to
Al Qaeda had largely ignored Sana until now. If Monday's bombing is a
precursor to more attacks, it would further threaten security in a capital
already roiled by tribal conflicts, northern-based rebels and divisions
within the armed forces, including a military unit in the Central Security
Organization led by another of Saleh's nephews. Officials worry the ancient
city could descend into a battle that would spark a civil war.
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Received on Tue May 22 2012 - 07:38:26 EDT